Grace and Contentment

I’m enjoying a rare moment of solitude and peace on this lazy October afternoon, a throwback of sorts to my carefree summer routine. In between sips of coffee, I write while relishing the sound of the screaming blue jay outside.

Like every educator, my to-do list of professional responsibilities went from zero to 150+ as the calendar’s page flipped from August to September. It’s been 42 days of nonstop go-go-go, and I’m left wondering if September even happened because it came in like a ferocious, pouncing lion and was over before I could even breathe.

My annual autumn lupus flare has settled in for its yearly nuisance fester. Energy depletion, fatigue, and pain are unwanted side effects, but I’m simultaneously grateful this year’s flare isn’t as debilitating as it could be. 

I’ve struggled here and there with keeping the ghoulies in my head at bay, but they are quiet today, and my soul is feeling the most at home and grounded in my body than it has in months. 

It’s a good day.

Autumn’s late afternoon amber bars of sunshine reflect off the changing leaves and absorb an invisible yet oddly satisfying aroma of Earth and fall time sweetness intermixed with the crisp autumn breeze heralding the beginning of the end of the year. 

Speaking of endings, I made the tough decision last month to gracefully end my querying journey with Chapter One-A Novel. I’ve got one holdout still in the trenches, but based upon the 200+ responses (or lack of responses thereof) I’ve received from my queries, I already know the answer. 

I edited and revised both my manuscript and query letter countless times and tried my absolute best, but it’s time to wrap up this 8-year-long journey with pride and dignity. I wrote a novel, and nobody can take that accomplishment away from me. Maybe someday I’ll revisit it, but as Tony Stark said in Avengers: Endgame, part of the journey is the end, and it’s time for Chapter One-A Novel’s journey to end.

My writing journey, however, is not ending but merely shifting its course. I’ve begun working on my next novel (tentatively titled John Doe) while simultaneously researching and outlining three non-fiction books. Each project’s potential is infinite, teeming with unique possibilities, and will hopefully educate and inspire readers to see and think in new ways. 

At least, that’s my hope and the intention that fuels my progress.

I am walking in the JDRF One Walk this Sunday with my 11-year-old nephew who was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes a few years ago. It’s an honor to walk in his name and with a team comprised of treasured family and friends while giving back to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, an organization that has helped and supported my nephew in numerous ways. Please support my quest with positive thoughts or a small monetary donation (if you are able to do so) by clicking here.

Thank you for joining me on my journey and for your support. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Grace and Contentment” was posted on jillocone.com on October, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

It’s Time for Peppers, Life, and Dolly

Oh, by gosh, by golly… August has been one exhilarating whirlwind, and I’ve relished every single moment. Electric pain radiates throughout my body and a shroud of fatigue lies heavy upon my shoulders, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.

The pain I feel means I am ALIVE and living my one wild and precious life.

I traveled with my family to Nashville to help my niece move into her college dorm for her sophomore year. Not including too many details for privacy reasons, but her school is two miles from the heart of the city. Before move-in day arrived, we explored the area, including parts of her campus we hadn’t seen, parts of Nashville we hadn’t seen, and the adorable town of Franklin. 

Video I took on Broadway Street near Nudie’s. This goes on ALL NIGHT.

The Nashville highlight for me was walking over The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge towards Nissan Stadium, the home field of the Tennessee Titans, and hearing my favorite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers! No ticket needed for this concert! The full moon rose alongside us and I literally danced and sang under the bridge (pun intended) to about three-quarters of their show. And I also scored a tour shirt from the merch trailer to wear to their NJ show (more details about this below).

As we strolled away from the stadium and towards the Broadway Street area, the chaos of Music City drowned out Anthony’s voice, John’s guitar, Flea’s bass, and Chad’s drums. If you ever want to feel alive, I highly recommend ensconcing yourself in the Nashville scene, as I actually sensed the festive atmosphere pulsing within my bones and reverberating in my muscles.

Sidebar: Should you find yourself in Nashville, take the time to wait in line for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. My goodness, it’s worth it. Best fried chicken and crinkle cut fries I’ve ever had.

My niece is a strong and independent young woman who chose to give up part of her summer to be an orientation leader, and every day, she inspires me to be a better person. Her orientation obligations resulted in moving in earlier than the rest of the campus, so we had more room in the parking area, elevators, hallways, and her apartment. Her jam-packed schedule also gave us all less time to dwell on the sadness of farewell, and instead of saying goodbye when it was time to leave, I said, “See you soon.” 

We stopped at Dollywood’s Theme Park and DreamMore Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on the way home for a day stay over. Upon walking into the theme park, we noticed with curiosity that Christmas decorations were hanging from just about everywhere. We happened upon a sign announcing that filming for a holiday special would be taking place in various areas of the park throughout the day and didn’t think too much of it, until…..

Dolly! Photo courtesy of my SIL.

drum roll please….

WE SAW DOLLY!

That’s right, folks! THE one and only, along with JIMMY FALLON!

Completely unexpected and truly an amazing. My sister-in-law snapped pictures of them as my roller-coaster-partner-in-crime nephew and I spied Dolly while seated on a coaster, of course, but would you expect any less from us? 

We rode every coaster in the park, two of them twice, and by the luck of the draw, we were seated either in the back row or front row on about half of the rides. Here’s my Dollywood Coaster Report:

We also rode the train, which was a restored World War II coal-and-steam-powered train, and got drenched on the rapids.

And did someone say, “Cinnamon Bread?” Named the best cinnamon bread in America by Travel and Leisure magazine, the iconic pull-apart bread made fresh at the Grist Mill melted in my mouth and was so good it didn’t need any icing, nor did I care about the carbs messing with my sugar levels.

After our park day ended, we enjoyed the pool and hot tub area before retiring to our room for the night, and yes, I happily slept in a bunk bed. Every item on the buffet breakfast at Song and Hearth the following morning was simply delicious. 

In my humble opinion, Dollywood’s theming, from the smallest of details to every single aspect of each ride and coaster, surpasses its Orlando and Anaheim big name competitors. Both the theme park and the DreamMore resort were clean and meticulously landscaped, and every employee we encountered pleasant and helpful. An affordable escape off the beaten path with less crowds and more value than its big name rivals, Dollywood quickly became one of my favorite places. In 2023, a new coaster called Big Bear Mountain will be added to the theme park, and the new HeartSong Lodge and Resort adjacent to DreamMore will officially open for visitors, so I have two good reasons to return to Dollywood!

We tooled around Gatlinburg for a few hours before heading to Virginia with a quick drive through Virginia Tech on the way to our hotel for the night, and we rolled back into the Jersey Shore on Tuesday with a suitcase of wonderful memories.

By choice, I didn’t have time to rest. The day I had waited far too long for had finally arrived, and I woke up on Wednesday, August 17, ready to pop with anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning.

I had never seen my favorite band in concert prior to hearing them perform from a distance while standing outside their Nashville venue five days earlier. The reasons for this no longer matter because I finally crossed off the number-one item on my lifelong bucket list:

I SAW THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS LIVE IN CONCERT AT METLIFE STADIUM, AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

RHCP Set List from MetLife Show on 8/17/22.

The ones who have provided the soundtrack to my life since my high school years took the stage with explosive energy and sheer delight. I jumped, and danced, and sang, and screamed, and got lost in the joyous moment of every song they played, which was the absolute best set list of the tour, By The Way (again, pun intended). 

My concert comrades and I stood for the entire show, and it was just an electric, epic evening, everything I could have wished for and more. Anthony, and Flea, and Chad, and JOHN who returned for the Unlimited Love album and tour, playing their hearts out with a palpable intensity and exuberance, and constantly expressing their gratitude to the audience… it honestly couldn’t have been any better. 

The Peppers’ music has been my constant companion since I was in my teens and carried me through some dark and dismal life episodes. There’s something about Anthony’s voice that simultaneously soothes and energizes me. Time and time again, their music helps me cope with whatever life throws at me, either as a result of my own choices or by happenstance, and on more than one occasion, I’ve felt like they wrote certain lyrics just for me.

And they are still here, rocking with as much fire and spirit as they did when they first came together as a band.

I cannot wait for the release of the Peppers’ SECOND double-album of 2022 titled Return of the Dream Canteen in October. I sincerely hope a tour to support Canteen album follows, and if one does, I will most definitely be there.

Special commemorative ticket from Paul O’Neill Day on 8/21/22.

Since the concert, I’ve enjoyed a jaunt to Six Flags Great Adventure with my brother, youngest niece, and two nephews, and witnessed the retiring of Paul O’Neill’s number before a much-needed Yankees victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the house that Ruth built in celebration of my treasured friend’s birthday.

I’m still relishing my carefree summer days while trying my best to ignore my school emails and meet my upcoming magazine deadlines as summer’s end looms in the distance. There’s a time for everything, and I’ve learned to trust the seasons of both my calendar and my life. 

I will continue to wake up each day with a zest for living and an intention to experience something wondrous each day, no matter the date on the calendar, the temperature outside, or what’s on my to-do list.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“It’s Time For Peppers, Life, and Dolly” was posted on jillocone.com on August 24, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Angling With My Query

I experienced its first visions eight years ago, and my life has never been the same since. 

My eight-year voyage on Chapter One-A Novel’s waters has been full of ups and downs and I’ve been sailing by writing through calm currents and tempest-fueled tides. Along its course, I’ve had to search for meaning in unexpected places and destined coincidences, make tough decisions about what path to follow, and wade through seas teeming with ghoulies and doubt. 

But now I stand firm on the shore with the finished manuscript of Chapter One-A Novel gleaming in my hands.

I know you’ve heard such proclamations in the past, but I assure you I am not crying “wolf” this time. 

This version is the real deal, and I am announcing it out loud and proud to the universe: CHAPTER ONE IS DONE.

To borrow one of the novel’s themes and visions, I have written Chapter One, so everything will fall into place as it stands steadfast as an intriguing work of fiction in its own right.

The novel, MY novel, is done, but my journey is just beginning.

I have reentered the tidepool of the publishing world by seeking representation and/or publication by dangling my authentic and heartfelt query letter addressed to agents and publishing houses as bait. No nibbles yet, but I know the universe will lure the right opportunity to bite my hook, which reads as follows:

Kelly Lynch navigates the ebb and flow of life’s tides on her fortuitous journey of self-discovery in my approximately 64,000-word novel titled Chapter One-A Novel.

As Waterville High School’s newest English teacher, Kelly Lynch befriends fellow educator and James Joyce enthusiast Shannon Moran. While Kelly grapples with deep scars from her past, she struggles to balance her active life as a teacher and her stagnant marriage to shiftless alcoholic Wayne Coopersmith. Shannon’s encouragement resurrects Kelly’s innate fervor for writing, while Kelly inspires Shannon to pursue her lifelong dream of studying in Dublin, Ireland.

A double-dose of tragedy fractures Kelly’s life, and in the aftermath, she throws caution to the wind and follows the mysterious path of breadcrumbs scattered by the universe from coastal New Jersey to the grandeur of Dublin.

Chance unites Kelly with Jame Flaherty, a Dubliner who guides her along the footprints left by Joyce and his characters while sparking a raging inferno inside her heart. Her experiences on the Emerald Isle hearten a keen awareness of the present moment’s tremendous value and fortify Kelly’s awakening. Upon returning to the Jersey Shore, she begins her next Chapter One anew by pursuing her calling as a writer.

Kelly’s profoundly moving story of enduring the waves spurred by the tribulations and the triumphs of the past, the present, and the future while searching for a sense of purpose in the face of grief will resonate with readers long after they turn the last page.

Please keep in mind I am the author and not the main character of Chapter One – A Novel, which is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either products of my imagination or used fictitiously. 

In between querying and making progress on my assignments for Jersey Shore Magazine’s Fall/Holiday 2022 issue, I am already working on my next writing project. Stay tuned for updates, because I intend to be more active with sharing my ideas and my writing life right here on the blog.

Spoiler: I’ve hidden a few Easter eggs about my future project(s) within this post’s words.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Angling With My Query” was posted on jillocone.com on July 4, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Smashing the Boulder

I’ve been battling an unnecessary existential crisis, one of the many free gifts bestowed upon humans like me who are authentically human.

What began as nuisance funks the size of small pebbles rapidly combined to create one giant, overwhelming boulder. 

Innumerable legs, each with a different origin, protrude from this particular boulder, and they have been kicking me nonstop from every direction while the boulder’s crushing weight has squashed my sense of purpose. My futile attempts to defend myself or fight back provoke a harder and faster pummeling, and I end up reduced to a steaming pile of doubt and defeat.

The debilitating boulder, however, has now rolled into sacred soul territory by triggering a case of the summertime blues. 

I’ve waited all year for these two glorious months, dammit, and today, I wallow no more.

The only way around it is through it. 

As I crawl forward on my elbows, the megalith’s tentacles slightly loosen their grip around my ankles.  

Inch by inch, I will escape the squidmonster of stone’s grasp, then smash it to pieces. 

I will rise and stand victorious within its ruins, and my light will shine brighter than ever.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Smashing the Boulder” was posted on jillocone.com on July 1, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

The Value of a Soul

One of my students recently asked me if I would sell my soul for $50 million. 

I emphatically replied, “No, I most definitely would not.” 

They gasped wide-eyed, “But it’s FIFTY million dollars! You could buy anything you wanted!”

“My soul is worth far more to me than money,” I answered. “It’s not for sale at any price.”

“I’d sell mine! I need the money!”

“Do you know what kind of life you’d have afterwards?” I questioned.

“A rich one.”

“But another entity or person would own you and dictate your every move. You wouldn’t be YOU anymore, you’d be the pawn of someone or something else and your life as you know it would cease to exist.”

“That’s ok by me! My soul, it’s nothing, but money, money is everything!”

Our exchange left me disheartened, and I am struggling to find a way to show this student the immense value of their soul before our time together ends in a few short weeks. I’m even more disillusioned at realizing this is certainly not the only student in my classroom who believes his or her soul has no value.

As both a teacher and a lightworker, it is tremendously difficult to relate to such a mindset when my soul suggests I help when I can and to build someone up instead of tearing them down. I cannot grasp our culture’s ever-growing glorification of jackassery and shaming over compassion and empathy, nor the empty value placed upon “likes,” “followers,” and “influencers” who are driven by the almighty dollar instead of altruism.  

But this is what our world has become and the world our young people are growing up in.

What is another way my soul can model kindness and generosity when the mantra I repeatedly hear is, “What’s in it for me?”

How can I empower others, especially young people, in a society where perseverance or trying one’s best in the classroom are seen as detriments and the benefits from personal accountability and learning from failure are no longer revered? 

I’m sharing this with you today because I am confident that by putting it out there, I will attract a way to help my students be freed from the shackles of societal expectations and ego, and instead, spark their light so they can appreciate even a sliver of both their enormous potential and the abundant value of their souls.

I’m not giving up on any of them, for each has a uniquely vital and valuable light to shine in our world.

Please note that I intentionally used the pronouns “they” and “their” for confidentiality reasons. Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

The Value of a Soul” was posted on jillocone.com on January 23, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

As You Wish…

“As you wish.”

Most associate those words with Westley’s promise to Princess Buttercup in Rob Reiner’s 1987 classic film The Princess Bride.

However, Star Wars fans like me know those three words were first uttered on screen seven years earlier in the city of Bespin, the city in the clouds. I was nine years old when I heard the voice of the most spectacular bounty hunter in the galaxy speak those words in response to Vadar’s request that there be “no disintegrations” when hunting for the Millenium Falcon. 

As a little girl in the 1970s, I wasn’t a tomboy, but I also wasn’t a “girlie girl.” I fell in the middle, a misfit of sorts, and always sympathized with those toys relegated to the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” especially the polka-dotted elephant. It might surprise some that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach-loving writer and educator has had Jedi dreams and a desire to join the rebel alliance surging through her blood since childhood. I am not ashamed one bit about my love of Star Wars, which began the minute I first heard the London Symphony Orchestra blare the main title while I read the quintessential opening crawler announcing that it was a period of civil war and that “rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”

Star Wars was deliciously different from anything I had ever experienced and provided me with a new way of seeing things. It was the first time I had been exposed to a strong woman who wasn’t being molded into a future wife or mother. Leia was a princess, that’s true, but she had a purpose much greater than her title. She wasn’t searching for a prince or seeking admiration. Instead, she was fighting for a cause she believed in with fierce determination and ultimate fearlessness.

Leia was my inspiration, she still is, and I adore her. 

I’ve learned life lessons from all the characters in the Star Wars franchise, but there’s one who stands above the rest, one who has lived in my heart ever since I first witnessed his on-screen swagger and cunning dauntlessness. 

Boba Fett.

The baddest-ass misfit mercenary ever to travel to the Outer Rim and beyond. 

Of course I bought into the supposed myth that after falling into the Sarlacc in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the Sarlacc spit Boba out because it could not digest his armor, a myth that circulated well before the Internet existed. There was no way someone as bold as Boba would meet his fate in such an undignified manner! I also loved seeing him as a youngster in Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones despite the devastating loss of his father, Jango, at the hands of Mace Windu, and was ecstatic at finding him added to Star Wars: A New Hope in 1997

Fast forward to the here and now. 

With the pandemic clouding our world over much of the past two years, Disney+ has provided me with a lot of levity and plenty of escapes from reality through exclusive series that tell the stories of many favorite Star Wars and Marvel characters.

Case in point: The Mandalorian. Din Djarin and Grogu are one hell of a duo, but my heart yearned to see my boy again…and wouldn’t you know, my wish was granted! I knew those were Boba Fett’s boots in Season 1, Episode 5 of The Mandalorian, and when my long-lost hero and his iconic ship Slave-1 finally graced the screen in Season 2, I went absolutely bananas. 

Boba the freaking Fett. 

He lived.

Or should I say, he lives.

Seeing him on-screen again (excellently portrayed by the ever-talented Temuera Morris, who played Jango in Attack from the Clones) in several Season 2 episodes with Fennec Shan at his side as they helped Din and Cara Dune protect Grogu pleased me to no end, but then the unbelievable happened: a credits scene in The Mandalorian’s season 2 finale episode depicted Boba and Fennec taking over Jabba the Hut’s throne on Tatooine then revealed that The Book of Boba Fett would be coming soon.

Holy. Freaking. Crap.

As I wished.

A little over a year has passed since that monumental Mandalorian moment, and today, thanks to the commitment and imagination of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni (and a host of others), today I’ll be watching the season premiere of The Book of Boba Fett through the innocent eyes of that little, blond-haired nine-year-old. 

He is Boba Fett, and from what I’ve been told, he intends to rule with respect.

Today my dreams come true, and I shamelessly become a child once again.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“As You Wish” was posted on jillocone.com on December 29, 2021, with parts of it originally published in “A New Hope, Indeed,” on December 14, 2019 . Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Someday…

I tried to write a post this morning that I hoped would provide you with contentment and encouragement, but I feel like I failed. Here’s the best I can do …

Most of us have had to pivot our plans this holiday season, which left our hearts mourning the loss of so many cherished traditions. 

The magic…it’s been different for certain this go-around. Those who were able to celebrate the season felt it just as much as those whose plans are currently on hold. 

It’s not just you.

It’s not just me.

It’s all of us

We’re all in the same boat with COVID as our captain, and we need to do our best to keep ourselves and those we love safe.

It’s just how it is right now, but you know what?

Eventually, that COVID captain will retire. He will someday relinquish the helm and leave his boat tied up to the mooring forevermore.

And that will be an absolutely glorious day. 

We will once again be able to celebrate life’s little and big moments with those we treasure, and our sense of the value of the present moment will be earnestly renewed. Our hearts will be happier, our hugs will quadruple in warmth, and our souls will be teeming with joy and love tenfold. 

Someday, that day will come. My heart believes in it.

I hope your heart does, too.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Someday” was posted on jillocone.com on December 26, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Published in “Stay Salty: Life in the Garden State”

I am beyond elated to announce that my piece titled “SynJersey” was selected for publication in Read Furiously’s forthcoming anthology Stay Salty: Life in the Garden State, which will be released on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.

The book features essays, prose, photography, poetry, and comics, all of which explore the fascinating stories that make New Jersey and its people some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet.

I’m honored that my piece was selected for publication alongside many other talented writers and artists, as I don’t have to tell you how much the Garden State means to me.

From the Amazon listing:

The book you hold in your hand is as relaxing as a day at the Shore, as tense as the traffic you hit on the way down to get there, and as expansive as the Pine Barrens you find yourself lost in after that wrong turn off the Parkway. Stay Salty, the second volume in Read Furiously’s popular New Jersey Anthology series, once again reminds us of everything we love and hate (and love to hate) about the Garden State. Following the tradition of storytelling of The World Takes, Stay Salty features prose, poetry, comics, and photography that showcase the mysterious and fascinating elements that make up New Jersey and its inhabitants. Grab some salt water taffy and listen to voices from Sussex County to Cape May. Because in New Jersey, there’s always a story to tell.

Editors Stephanie Atzeni and Adam Wilson put forth their utmost effort in creating an anthology that is honest and beautiful.

To give you a bit of a teaser, here’s the first two lines of “SynJersey”:

Jersey.

She’s an addiction I simply cannot overcome.

You’ll have to buy the book to read the rest!

Stay Salty: Life in the Garden State can be ordered through any of the following links:

Click HERE to purchase through Read Furiously

Click HERE to purchase through Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to purchase through Amazon

Click HERE to purchase through Target

If you buy a copy, I’d be happy to sign it! I’m extremely grateful for your continued support!

Stay Salty!

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Published in ‘Stay Salty: Life in the Garden Sate’” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on October 6, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

The Gift of the Forever Moment

If you happened to catch any of last night’s Field of Dreams game coverage, where the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox played the first ever MLB game in Iowa to honor the lasting legacy of the film “Field of Dreams,” perhaps you shed a tear at some point like I did.

Credit: Getty Images/Stacy Revere; posted by Newsday.com

Hopefully, you didn’t shed a thousand or more (and counting, I might add), like me.

Last night’s game was a throwback to a time when life was simpler and the good outweighed the bad. We collectively paused to enjoy a ball game between two teams, but there was more going on than just baseball.

And just like in the movie “Field of Dreams,” more was happening than just what we saw on the field.

It was a catharsis, an awakening, an emotional roller coaster ride highlighting the power of the present moment sprinkled with nostalgia and resulting in an experience unlike that of any other game I’ve ever watched.

The awe and wonder and excitement on each player’s face as they strolled around the original field and house from the movie set and the cornfields surrounding the play field… grown men looked like children with boyish grins full of innocence and authenticity, no matter which uniform they wore or how hard life may have treated them in the past.

We escaped society’s acrimony and noise for a few hours and, instead, focused on the gift of the forever moment and the treasure of a single day, as Kevin Costner so eloquently narrated in his introduction

Our imaginations are infinite..

Sculpting a baseball diamond from a farmer’s field in Iowa.

Longing for summer as seasons are painted on its canvas.

Once this game and this land touches you, the wind never blows so hard again.

“Hey, Dad?” Want to have a catch?”

“I’d like that.”

I’m Kevin Costner, and on this field, we once made a movie about dreams … of baseball and years gone by, and much more.

A tale of love, family, character.

The treasure of a single day.

America has embraced the heroes of our youth for over a century. Those who ran on grass so green it took your breath away…touching bases as white as clouds

Tonight, we pause time. 

In the warmth of August, two major league teams gift us the forever moment; the White Sox, the Yankees.

Come to our Field of Dreams and play ball.

Baseball united us last night, no matter what team we religiously cheer for, with every at-bat and every home run hit into the cornfield.

My team should have won, as the Yankees had the lead in the top of the ninth inning, but a swing by the Sox’s Tim Anderson scripted a Hollywood-style ending: a walk-off two-run homer to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, complete with fireworks.

Despite my team’s loss, I cheered and clapped and wept tears of joy because of the moment’s incredible magnitude, a culmination of the night’s immense emotions and how baseball, yet again, brought us all together.

“And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.” – Terence Mann

It was baseball that gave us something to look forward to, a diversion from the dark days after 9-11, when the crack of Mike Piazza’s bat as he launched a home run that was heard around the nation and when Derek Jeter became “Mr. November.” Sidebar: I highly recommend watching ESPN’s “30 for 30: First Pitch,” if you have already seen it, which tells the story of President Bush throwing the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series. Politics aside, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, one that truly captures the gamut of emotions we all felt as we tried to move on with our lives after such a horrific event.

It was baseball that provided a reprieve from lockdown last summer as MLB players were some of the first professional athletes to return to the field. Even with silly cardboard cutout fans filling some of the empty seats and piped-in fake fan noise, we looked to the return of baseball games as a step towards returning to normalcy.

It’s baseball stickers that fill my planner every autumn when the postseason, my favorite sports time of the year, begins. Even when my Yankees do not move on or outright miss the playoffs, I root-root-root for sometimes the home team and sometimes the visiting team as each player on every field pursues their childhood dream of winning the coveted world series ring. 

Back to “Field of Dreams”…

The movie’s premise about a ball field in the middle of a cornfield where ghosts convened to play America’s game is incredibly unbelievable, but that’s the beauty of the film.

Many of our dreams seem unbelievable, like Ray’s, but he did the impossible, the unconventional. He followed his dream, built the field, and they came.

Ray Kinsella made the unbelievable believable.

And 33 years after Ray built his field of dreams on the big screen, Kevin Costner led the Yankees and Sox players onto a neighboring field in front of 8,000 fans in the bleachers and millions of us at home, all because of the lasting impression of a single film with a universal theme.

How many of us can say that about our own dreams? How many of us are willing to put in the work necessary to do the unbelievable like Ray did and make our dreams a reality?

In the quintessential ending scene of the movie, Ray Kinsella and his father, John Kinsella, finally have a catch with each other, making their private personal dreams come true.

How many of us have an ongoing list of the undone things in our life? How many of us, when presented with the opportunity, will make our undone things done?

Behind Ray and John, a line of headlights stretching for miles makes its way to the field.

Ray built it, and not only did he come, but they came. How many of us actually listen to our intuition and attempt to do the impossible?

The Field of Dreams game was so much more than a game.

It was, indeed, like I was dipped in magic water.

It was a pause in time, a gift of the forever moment that amplified the power of the present moment.

It was a reminder of who I used to be, who I am, and most importantly, who I can be.

It was a reminder to love unconditionally and to always treat others with kindness and compassion.

It was a reminder to never lose that sense of wonder or awe in believing each day, each moment, is a treasure.

It was a reminder of a simple moment’s lasting magnitude, such as having a catch with someone we hold dear, or spending time with those we love doing what we love.

It was a reminder to pursue my dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, and to believe in the dreams of others.

It was a reminder of all that once was good and could be again.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“The Gift of the Forever Moment” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on August 13, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Letting The Light In

I’ve been writing little snippets of recollections on sticky notes all week long as I planned to post today about reaching the pandemic’s year milestone.

Yesterday, I threw them all into the trash bin.

Thinking about this time last year, as things rapidly developed and our lives changed minute by minute and the overwhelming fear that crippled me….well, it actually made me shudder with anxiety.

Instead of rehashing the traumatic truth about where we used to be and how we got here, I am celebrating the light that has entered through the cracks over the past year, cracks that were formally invisible to my eyes. 

Do I like our current situation? Absolutely not.

Do I miss everything that’s currently on hold? More than anything.

Did I think we’d return to “normal” by now? Of course I did. 

But over the past year, I realized that “normal” does not exist, nor does a “new normal,” which is one of the worst phrases to come out of this year-long reality.

The light, though…

Sun’s First Light – Taken September 2020

The light shines on the goodness that surrounds me, goodness I was formerly too blind to notice. 

The light beams on the moments I can safely spend in the company of loved ones and friends, and those moments have more meaning today than they ever have. The light will eventually beam and create more opportunities to make wonderful memories.

The light glistens on my watch and my planner to highlight the value of my time, and I’ve learned to decline requests for my time that do not enhance my well-being or serve my purpose.

The light coaxes the words out of my soul and onto my journal or my screen. Instead of fighting those words and holding them back, they flow and release me from my self-deprecating prison. Some are crap, and some aren’t, and I’m taking those that aren’t and creating what I hope helps others to know they aren’t alone.

The light brightens the sound of laughter coming from those I love most.

The light illuminates my purpose and my passion, and has allowed me to see meaning in and understand my journey here on Earth so far, especially the hardest times, the most difficult of days, and the failures and rejections. The light also illuminates a clear path to my future that’s full of experiences I want to have and dreams I will make happen. I’ll be sharing those experiences and dreams with you soon.

The light flashed on a vaccine opportunity that I originally believed was not an option for me because of my medical issues and led me to said opportunity with a smooth experience and limited side effects. My desire to have a life outweighs my aversion to the vaccine, and while my choice is right for me, I respect it might not be right for you.

The light radiates on my gratitude for those who have gone above and beyond to help us all and on my resolve to celebrate the lives of those who we’ve lost to this horrible illness.

The universe works in very mysterious ways. I know she guides me with breadcrumbs, most of which validate that I am in the right place at the right time and doing what I need to be doing at that moment. Case in point: when I sat down this morning to write this post, I put my music on shuffle. The first song to play was “Namaste” by Beastie Boys. A sampling of the lyrics:

…A cold chill of fear cut through me

I felt my heart contract

To my mind I brought the image of light

And I expanded out of it

My fear was just a shadow

And then I voice spoke in my head

And she said dark is not the opposite of light

It’s the absence of light

And I thought to myself

She knows what she’s talking about

And for a moment I know

What it was all about.

Songwriters: Horovitz Adam Keefe / Diamond Michael Louis / Yauch Adam Nathaniel / Nishita Mark Ramos. Namasté lyrics © Brooklyn Dust Music, Polygram Int. Publishing, Inc.

I know what it was all about.

As I said earlier, normal doesn’t exist. What does exist is change: Routines change. Circumstances change. Expectations change. Opportunities change. Schedules change. People change. Persevering while adapting to change is essential to survival.

I also exist, as does my purpose, and what hasn’t changed is my authentic desire to thrive despite change and to strive for my words to speak to others.

The fresh air and sunshine, the clouds and the snow, the singing birds, the ocean’s rollers and mountain’s peaks, and all of nature’s miracles, are still here a year later. They always have been, and they always will be if we allow the light in through the cracks.

And someday, we’ll be able to look back on all of this and celebrate our collective strength and victory over the pandemic with joyous light and fireworks, but you don’t have to wait that long…

Today, celebrate your light. Celebrate your perseverance. Celebrate your life. Celebrate you.

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Letting The Light In” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 14, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries